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Biotech Science

Baby To Be Born Without the Gene For Breast Cancer 259

manoftin writes to tell us that next week a baby will be born without the gene for breast cancer, according to the BBC. "But he said that, in this case, not carrying the BRCA1 gene would not guarantee any daughter born to the couple would be unaffected by breast cancer because there are other genetic and environmental causes. Dr Alan Thornhill, scientific director of the London Bridge Fertility, Gynaecology and Genetics Centre, said: 'While the technology and approach used in this case is fairly routine, it is the first time in the UK that a family has successfully eliminated a mutant breast cancer gene for their child. It is a victory for both the parents and the HFEA that licensed this treatment.'"
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Baby To Be Born Without the Gene For Breast Cancer

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  • New how? (Score:5, Informative)

    by againjj ( 1132651 ) on Friday December 19, 2008 @07:46PM (#26179321)
    I don't understand what the real difference is from other types of embryo screening. Sure, there was a different method of screening here, but otherwise screening like this has been going on for a while. No new ethical implications that I see.
  • by glavenoid ( 636808 ) on Friday December 19, 2008 @07:50PM (#26179395) Journal
    Moot point. This cancer is possible in both sexes.
  • Re:Tough choice (Score:5, Informative)

    by Darundal ( 891860 ) on Friday December 19, 2008 @07:52PM (#26179419) Journal
    All that happened was screening. They didn't screw with nature, they just took a peek to see whether the embryo had the gene or not.
  • by estitabarnak ( 654060 ) on Friday December 19, 2008 @07:57PM (#26179471)
    BRCA1 is a known proto-oncogene with the potential to become an oncogene. That is, there are known, relatively common mutations that can occur on BRCA1 that will cause it to malfunction and cause/support cancer. However, in it's normal working function, BRCA1 is actually a tumor suppressor. So there is the distinct possibility that by knocking out BRCA that other, unintended consequences will result...
  • hold the phone (Score:4, Informative)

    by Eil ( 82413 ) on Friday December 19, 2008 @08:09PM (#26179597) Homepage Journal

    "licensed this treatment"?

    That is without a doubt one of the scariest things I've read lately.

  • by nbert ( 785663 ) on Friday December 19, 2008 @08:16PM (#26179653) Homepage Journal
    IIRC the ratio between women and men affected by breast cancer is 100:1. So it makes a big difference.

    However, those statistics are about breast cancer in general. Maybe someone with a medical background can enlighten us about the specific ratio of BRCA1.
  • by quenda ( 644621 ) on Friday December 19, 2008 @09:51PM (#26180407)

    by knocking out BRCA that other, unintended consequences will result...

    They are not knocking it out. They are selecting an embryo which has inherited the good (not known bad) copy of the BRCA gene.

  • Re:Tough choice (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mr Z ( 6791 ) on Friday December 19, 2008 @10:51PM (#26180809) Homepage Journal

    Of course, in the article's case, they didn't remove anything. They screened out the embryos that had the undesirable gene. It's like the difference between buying a car with an automatic and trying to convert it to manual, versus only considering cars that come with manual transmissions when shopping.

    I do think it's fascinating that so much of the "junk" DNA may actually do something useful. It'll be interesting to find out exactly what.

  • by jcmurray ( 975686 ) on Friday December 19, 2008 @10:54PM (#26180825)

    Just to clarify the headline and summary, and as is pointed out in the quote from Dr. Alan Thornhill in the original article:

    Mutations in BRCA1 are linked to breast cancer , not just having the BRCA1 gene itself. BRCA1 [] is a critical tumor suppressor gene that helps maintain genomic integrity. Again, specific mutations in BRCA1 have been linked to breast cancer, not just "carrying the BRCA1 gene". Most of us carry the BRCA1 gene and it is expressed in a wide variety of tissues throughout our bodies. The BBC article uses the language such as "not carrying the BRCA1 gene", this is not entirely appropriate or even the issue at hand. The child will carry the BRCA1 gene, but without the specific mutations linked to breast cancer. (To be even more specific, the child will carry two alleles of the BRCA1 gene, one from each parent, both of which lack the mutations linked to breast cancer.)

  • Re:hold the phone (Score:4, Informative)

    by arkhan_jg ( 618674 ) on Saturday December 20, 2008 @02:37AM (#26182061)

    The HFEA is the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the UK government regulator of treatments than involve well, embryos.

    They approve treatments that are reasonably safe and ethical; and deny approval for treatments that are unsafe or unethical.

    The US has the FDA to do the exact same thing for other treatments. I honestly don't see how legal regulation to prevent free-for-all medical treatment where the layman has no idea whether a given treatment is safe* or not is a bad thing.

    *For reasonable definitions of safe, there's no such thing as zero risk when dealing with medical treatments.

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